MANATEE -- From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday, Pastor Gerrit Koedoot led a nondenominational service for residents and their guests in the clubhouse at Sugar Creek Country Club.
Eight tumultuous hours later, the pastor led a prayer vigil for a standing room only crowd estimated at 300, by community officials.
Koedoot called the evening session to meet the needs of the stricken community after three people were killed and four seriously injured when a 79-year-old Palmetto woman backed her vehicle into a crowd after the morning service.
"We are a close community and we will pull through together," said President Bill Watts of the Sugar Creek Country Club Homeowners Association.
Watts said the vigil, which was closed to the media, included songs, prayer and words of encouragement from Koedoot.
"Gerrit led the service and the service was filled with grief-stricken people," Watts said.
Grief was etched on the faces of the vigil attendees as they came to the clubhouse for the 6:15 p.m. vigil.
Some walked in arm in arm. Some had their arms around each other. Some hugged and prayed in the parking lot.
"It's so sad," said resident Lynda DeYoung.
People shook their heads when asked to comment. Many said they were too upset.
Few had seen the accident, when the SUV plowed backward after the woman apparently thought she was in drive. All had heard about it.
About 350 residents live in the close-knit Sugar Creek complex of communities near Mixon Fruit Farms and many knew the victims personally.
At 7 p.m., while the vigil was going on, a row of golf carts lined the side of the creek Sunday where the motorist drove her Chevy Tahoe into the water after losing control of her vehicle.
Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol said Sunday the woman driver who caused the accident has a valid driver license with no limitations. Alcohol was not a factor, according to FHP reports.
The driver has not been charged. The investigation is ongoing.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.